Some companies like to sweep their mistakes under a dark, dense rug and never speak of them again. Not Netflix
Last week, Netflix announced the end of its user profiles. According to company management, who really should know these things, a "very, very, very small minority" of users actually take advantage of the feature -- but the few who do enjoy it very much. The ability to set up separate movie queues for various family members is hard to replicate with just a single queue, and more than 1,200 of the company's 8.2 million subscribers complained in response to the official blog announcement -- the tip of an iceberg of emails and phone calls. Now, profiles are back in action again.
Netflix sent out emails to its members, apologizing profusely for the inconvenience this move might have caused, and promising to keep everything the way it was. Now, there are solid technical reasons to dump profiles; the feature was tacked on a long time ago, and it could use a rewrite from the ground up today. It's not as user-friendly as you might expect from Netflix, and it requires that you log in with a new user name to manage a second or third profile. These days, you simply expect more from Web 2.0-enabled operators like Netflix, Amazon
So Netflix dodges a potential hailstorm of bad publicity by keeping a small number of customers happy. It will mean a more complicated path to improvements in the service for everyone else, and that will cost money. Still, the publicity benefits are worth every red cent. I don't use the profiles feature, but I still appreciate this mea culpa as a shareholder, all things considered.